Thunder (31-24, 12-16 road) vs. Wizards (32-21, 23-7 home)
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM, 930 AM (Spanish))
Time: 7:00 PM CST
Team Comparisons (per NBA.com/Stats)
- Offensive Rating: Thunder – 104.1 (21st), Wizards – 107.9 (9th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 104.8 (7th), Wizards – 105.2 (12th)
After a game like Saturday’s, a nice one game road trip is probably the best thing for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Just a quick trip to get away from all the noise and normalize for a bit. Kevin Durant’s return was everything you’d expect it to be: loud, boisterous, and chock full of drama-filled moments that amounted to essentially nothing. The Thunder lost to a better team and everyone got a chance to get whatever they held inside out of their system.
And now, both parties move on. Before we move on, though, here are a couple observations from that game:
- There aren’t a lot of players that can guard Durant. The best way to guard him is to target his weakness, which is his strength. That’s why shorter, sturdier players are able to guard Durant better than longer, skinnier players. Roberson, for a good as he is defensively, cannot muscle Durant out of his spots. So he has to use his length, and unfortunately, Durant is longer than Roberson.
- Westbrook was way too emotional in the first half and it showed in his tunnel vision. The Warriors were content with letting him get deep into the paint and then closing off any passing lanes he had to Adams or a cutting Roberson. Westbrook racked up 8 turnovers by halftime. He played much better in the 2nd half, as the Thunder were able to trim the Warriors’ lead a bit, but in the end, the Thunder dug themselves too big of a hole.
- For as weak as we thought the Warriors bench would be, the Thunder’s has been atrocious in games against Golden State. Every time Westbrook leaves the floor, Golden State probably salivates. Cameron Payne was so mismatched against Shaun Livingston, that Billy Donovan went with Semaj Christon at one point.
- Enes Kanter would have been nice to have in this game. He seems to have figured out how to play against the Warriors and his interior scoring would’ve helped out Westbrook immensely.
- The Thunder are getting closer to figuring out the Warriors puzzle. The losses have been by 26, then 21, and now 16. Yes, the numbers look ugly, but remember that’s how it was last season too, when we had Durant. The Warriors swept the season series against the Thunder during the regular season, but the Thunder were close in many of the games. Then in the playoffs, they seemed to solve the Warriors’ puzzle and almost made it to the Finals.
March 20th is the next time these two teams meet. The Thunder might look a little different for that meeting, as they will likely be active at the trade deadline. We will see then if the Thunder have gotten any closer to figuring out the Rubik cube that is the Warriors.
Season Series Summary
This is the second and final meeting of the season between the Thunder and Wizards. The Thunder beat the Wizards in their first meeting earlier this season 126-115 in overtime. Russell Westbrook triple-doubled in game with 35 points, 14 rebounds, and 11 assists.
The Wizards come into this game with a 31-24 record. After starting the season off 9-14, the Wizards have won 23 of their 30 games. The initial struggles may have been due to the adjustment period to new coach (and former Thunder coach) Scott Brooks. Over the past two months, though, the Wizards have been one of the best teams in the league. Their backcourt is as healthy it has been in a while, and they are starting to receive help from their role players (namely Otto Porter Jr, Marcin Gortat, and Markieff Morris). The bench unit for the Wizards struggles mightily with inconsistencies in all facets of the game.
- Enes Kanter (forearm)
3 Big Things
The Wizards aren’t a bad rebounding team, but they struggle on the defensive glass, grabbing only 75.5% of the available defensive rebounds, which ranks 23rd in the league. Oklahoma City, on the other hand, grabs 26.9% of the available offensive rebounds, which ranks 5th in the league. Whoever wins this battle, will likely go a long way to determining who wins this game.
2. Back-court defense
The backcourt for the Thunder will have to be sound defensively for the Thunder to have a chance in this game. All three of John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Otto Porter Jr. have the ability to put up 25 points in any game they play. Porter Jr. leads the league in 3pt percentage (46%) on 4.5 attempts per game. Beal shoots it at 39% from distance. With Wall getting into the paint, it’s up to Westbrook to stay in front of him and make sure no one else has to help off their man.
3. Battle of the benches
As bad as both these benches are, they may determine who wins the game. With the starting line-ups pretty evenly matched, the bench may be the determining factor in this. Which Cameron Payne will we see? The Cleveland game one (15 points) or the Golden State game one? Will Joffrey Lauvergne be more effective in this game? So much of this team’s success is dependent on the activity from the bench.